HELENA – The top graduated senior soccer players in Montana gathered on the campus of Carroll College on Thursday, preparing for Saturday’s 18th annual Shodair Soccer Classic all-star games. Athletes from across the Treasure State have joined forces to make four teams – the East boys versus the West boys and the East girls versus the West girls.

Only four prep teams were able to end their seasons with wins – the Missoula Hellgate boys, Bozeman girls, Belgrade boys and Billings Central girls all captured state titles – leaving many hoping for one more high school game. Enter the weekend’s Shodair Classic.

“I’ve known about this Shodair Classic for a while and I’m really honored to be selected to play on a team with some of the best girls in the state,” said Bozeman’s Alexa Coyle, who was honored as Montana’s Gatorade girls soccer player of the year. “I’m really excited to be here and I’m excited to play on Saturday.”

For others, learning of their selection to the weekend’s all-star game was a bit of a different experience.

Story continues below

“My principal called me into his office with two other teammates that I’m here with, Josh (Bundy) and Caleb (Wall), and I thought I was in trouble because I was the first one in there,” recalled Billings Central’s Christian Zygmond. “Then Josh came in and I thought, ‘Ok, he’s not in trouble.’ Then Caleb came in and the principal told us, ‘You guys have been selected for the Shodair Classic,’ and I thought that was pretty cool because my sister played in this game after she graduated. It feels like an honor to be here, though. I knew (Josh and Caleb) were fine, it was mainly me (being in trouble) I was worried about.”

For years these athletes have been pitted against one another, battling for city and state bragging rights. Many have also squared off during the summer months, on travel or club teams, but which all-star teammates have they looked forward to joining forces with the most?

“Playing with Halley (Myers) from CMR,” said former crosstown rival Marissa Meyer of Great Falls High. “Since I’ve played club with Missoula, I know a lot of the girls I’ll be playing against in this game, so that’s kind of different. I’m really excited to meet different people and play with people I usually play against.”

“The Billings guys I’ve played with in travel soccer, but Blake (Palmquist) from Bozeman, he’s such a ball handler so it will be pretty dang fun to play with him,” said Zygmond. “Hayden Van Son from Great Falls I’ve played against my whole life pretty much, now I’m playing with him. It’s kind of different on that side.”

Saturday’s all-star games will be played at Nelson Stadium on the campus of Carroll College. The girls game is slated for 3 p.m. with the boys to follow at 5 p.m.